"Poor treatment of young patient by doctor in ED"

About: Derby Hospital / Emergency Department

(as a volunteer/advocate),

I recently supported a teenager, who attends the service I work at, to attend the emergency department as they were in considerable pain following a treatment they had received the previous day. A nurse who had informally examined the patient earlier in the day confirmed the pain they would have been experiencing, suggesting the treatment may have been administered incorrectly. 

During triage, it was noted the patient had a fever. On consultation with the doctor, the patient explained the pain they were experiencing. They also explained they had had the same treatment previously but had never experienced this level of pain. The doctor's response was very dismissive and their manner abrupt. They questioned why the patient had been at school that day rather than resting at home. I interjected, explaining that there were serious extenuating personal issues. This information was dismissed, the doctor did not examine the area where the pain centred and asserted their opinion that it was just regular pain and the patient would have to put up with it.

The patient, clearly in considerable pain, was understandably frustrated by the doctor’s dismissive attitude and lack of empathy with their situation. They remonstrated by standing up and shouting abuse at the doctor. At this point, the doctor left the consultation room. After some minutes it was clear the doctor was not going to come back to see the patient. I approached the doctor to apologise for the patient’s outburst and attempted to put it into context by explaining the complexities of their current personal situation. The doctor's response was that they had been dealing with aggressive Aboriginal adolescents all day and they'd had enough. The doctor left it to me to explain to the patient that there was nothing they could do for them and that they should go home, rest and take Panadol.

I found the doctor’s response to be utterly shameful. The events of their day should not influence the treatment of subsequent patients. The message this sends to the patient is that their issues are insignificant in comparison to the day that the doctor had. Whilst the patient’s outburst was unfortunate and unpleasant, it was merely a reaction to the cold and dismissive attitude of the doctor. The doctor’s admission that Aboriginal adolescents had caused their apparent apathy toward the patient displayed clear prejudice and a total disregard for professional ethics. Whilst I understand that doctors are human, and work in a stressful environment, it is this kind of attitude which contributes to the poor health outcomes Aboriginal people experience. What are the chances that this patient will access a healthcare service with confidence again after such an incident? 

I would appreciate a response from a member of senior management at the hospital and would be happy to discuss further in person.

Responses

Response from Rachele Ferrari, Operations Manager, Broome Hospital, WACHS Kimberley

picture of Rachele Ferrari

Dear Unsatisfied youth advocate,

Firstly I would like to sincerely thank you for taking the time to share this experience on Patient Opinion. I am very concerned to read about the care provided to the teenager you accompanied in the emergency department at Derby Hospital. This experience does not meet our commitment to providing high quality patient centred care.

I appreciate that you are have offered to meet in person and discuss this further. I would really appreciate it if you could make contact with senior management at Derby Hospital. James Harris, Senior Medical Officer can be contacted on 0477 729 175 or email wk.smo@health.wa.gov.au

Alternatively you can contact me directly on 0419 043 610 or via email derby.operationsmanager@health.wa.gov.au

We really appreciate your feedback for without it we would not be aware of the issues and would not have the opportunity to improve our service.

Kind regards,

Rachele Ferrari

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